Software Carpentry

Helping scientists make better software since 1997

A Strange Obsession

I just spent a few minutes browsing these slides from a talk given in Karlsruhe in September by Microsoft’s Fabrizio Gagliardi.  The talk’s title was “Cloud Computing for Scientific Research”, and it’s chock-full of big: mega-this, peta-that, and isn’t it all exciting? The only mention of anything at the desktop scale is on slide 19, which mentions a plugin to allow MATLAB to talk to the cloud, and Excel views of Azure data. Once again, I’m puzzled (and a bit disappointed) that the world’s premier desktop software company has decided to ignore what most scientists care about most. I’m equally disappointed that there was nothing at all in these slides about improving scientists’ skills, especially since Microsoft has invested so heavily in improving its own processes. Oh well…

Written by Greg Wilson

2009/09/29 at 15:14

Posted in Opinion

2 Responses

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  1. I completely agree. While there are a small number of groups out there whose research is limited by raw computational power, the vast majority of us (in biology at least) are limited by our ability to properly use the tools that are available to us. What we need as a group (more than peta scale resources) are increased access to training and the availability of tools that reduce entry barriers to more advanced methods (which is why I’m so excited about Software Carpentry).


    2009/10/01 at 00:41

  2. Hi Greg,

    You are not the first to notice that most presentations by proprietary software vendors (even from their “research” departments) are geared toward marketing and sales. So IMHO, it’s no surprise that such presentations tend to emphasize (or even overstate) that which the vendor’s software is *not* known to do well rather than that which everybody already knows about. Microsoft still owns the desktop, even the scientific/engineering desktop, so there is no profit in presentations that focus on that.

    As far as “improving scientists’ skills” is concerned, IMHO, the presentation was way beyond that. Azure is the Microsoft-centric response to Google’s AppEngine and BigTable (MapReduce). I don’t see a lot of scientists developing Python apps using AppEngine with their data in a BigTable any time soon. At least, not without a lot of mentoring from software developers.

    George Crews

    2009/10/04 at 16:02

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